By Alex Fees
St. Clair County, IL (KSDK) - Illinois State Police say their decision to shoot and kill four or five steers that wandered onto Interstate 255 early Monday was a matter of public safety.
"It could have been a situation where it caused greater danger to the motoring public if they ran into one of the cattle and injured themselves while doing so. It was important for officers and they did a very good job of containing the situation. Unfortunately, they had to put a few cattle down, but in hindsight they did a good job for the motoring public to keep them safe," said Lt. Chris Trame.
The crash happened on I-64 at I-255. The large animals wandered out onto the highway, jumping over medians and crossing traffic lanes after the tractor-trailer transporting them crashed about 1:30 a.m.
"The truck-tractor moved out of its lane of travel and collided with the passenger vehicle. Upon the collision the truck-tractor lost control and overturned. The passenger vehicle continued, and was able to safely stop," said Trame.
Trame said supervisors on the scene gave the order to shoot and kill the animals, using department-issued rifles or shotguns.
"I liken it to striking a deer," said Trame. "But it's a more significant strike with cattle as large as they are. It could certainly injure if not kill someone if they struck the vehicle and actually entered the vehicle. And so it's very important for us to contain that, and do what we had to do to do so."
Trame said troopers have guidelines or directives in situations such as this.
"We do and it's usually directed towards directed to public safety," said Trame. "If in fact we do have a safety concern that the animal will get loose and get struck by a vehicle, we have to worry more about the human life than, unfortunately, the animal itself. I just want to commend the responding officers and agencies this morning because it could have been a terrible disaster if the cattle did get out into the public and in the roadway."
Trame said investigators have taken a crash report and the driver of the tractor-trailer has been cited for improper lane usage. Illinois State Police say two passengers in the car hit by that tractor-trailer reported minor injuries and were treated at a local hospital.
Officials with PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have an opinion on the matter.
Contacted by Newschannel 5, Dan Paden, Senior Research Associate in PETA's Cruelty Investigations Department, issued the following statement:
"Having documented numerous wrecks that always leave farmed animals languishing with severe injuries and dying slowly, PETA understands that in some situations, trained officers are faced with difficult decisions and opt to use firearms to instantly kill escaped cattle who cannot be safely secured and who pose a threat to motorists, responders, and/or themselves. As tragic as it is that escaped animals had to be shot today, a quick death by gunshot is a kinder and less terrifying fate than death at a slaughterhouse, where these animals would have had a steel bolt shot into their skulls, been strung up by one leg, and had their throats slit. The factory-farming industry must prioritize preventing and responding immediately and humanely to these frequent, chaotic crashes. Anyone upset by these animals' terror, suffering, and bloody deaths today can help end systemic, egregious cruelty to billions of animals by going vegan."